May 31, 2011

Hot Time in the Old Town

According to the Buffalo News, our fair city has only had eight days in May with at least 50% sunshine. Thus it was somewhat of a surprise that Memorial Day turned out hot, sunny, and gorgeous.

First up was a bike ride with Hil. We're ramping up for the Ride for Roswell, an anti-cancer charity bike ride held at the end of June. This year the two of us will be riding the 33-mile course. If you'd like to donate some money to my effort, please do so. Today we did nine miles, which isn't super far, but it was the hottest part of the day. I'm hoping the Ride isn't this hot. I'm also hoping it doesn't rain. Time in Southeast Asia has made me very tolerant of both heat and rain, but just because I tolerate it doesn't mean I like it.

During the ride, we stopped by a lovely Marine Corps memorial in North Tonawanda. I'll post photos of that in a few days. After the bike ride, we went to Hil's parents place for a Memorial Day cookout. Her mom makes absolutely amazing burgers.

I left after only about 90 minutes, as I wanted to get to another party. My old college roommate Raul is back in town and invited me to his shindig. A lot of the people there were folks that I didn't know, but it was great catching up with Raul and vise-versa. When I arrived, he immediately called on me to confirm to the crowd the veracity of two stories in particular: that we knew a guy that developed scurvy in college, and also that the same guy's brother had his entire CD collection stolen once, except the burglars left the CDs from one particular band, in what appeared to be a strong criticism of his musical taste.

For the record, the CDs that the burglars disdained were from the Arrogant Worms. I like that band too, I must confess.

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May 25, 2011

Lake Lanier

Two weekends ago, Hil and I flew down to visit her father's three siblings, all of whom live on the shores of Lake Lanier. The lake is a reservoir, created in the 1950s to hydrate Atlanta. The water level rose to fill what had been ravines and mountain streams, so the lake has a very convoluted edge, giving it hordes of shoreline.

At any rate, Hil and I took a Delta flight down on Friday, and rented a car to drive north from the airport. We arrived at about four PM, which generally is before rush hour, traffic was pretty good for Atlanta, which is to say badly congested for just about anywhere else. (Rush hour is Southern California is as bad as it is in Atlanta, but for non-peak traffic Atlanta is worse than anywhere I've been.)

We stayed until Monday, visiting Hil's aunts and uncles. Our presence provided a convenient excuse for a party, so a bunch of cousins showed up too. The aunts and uncles all built houses along the same street, so one could either walk between houses or ride in a Gator, which is like an all-terrain golf cart. We used Gators all the time in Afghanistan, so it was fun to see one again.

In addition to visiting people, we went boating, toured houses, saw the lot (and dock)* that Hil's parents own, and took a side trip to Dahlonega, GA. That town is proud to be the site of the first gold rush in the USA. Sadly for the town fathers, after a few good years a better strike turned up in California and just about all the miners packed up and became '49ers.

Monday, we flew back. Both ways were Delta, which isn't my favorite airline. But the good thing about flying into a major hub, is no layovers. Amusingly, for both flights Hil and I sat separately. One ticket had been bought and the other was from frequent-flier miles, and the seating computer would not link them together. Ah well, each way was just a bit over an hour in the air. Which seemed short, as I thought Buffalo and Atlanta were further apart than that. (The internet says they are 700 miles apart. Hmmm. Wikipedia lists the typical cruise speed of an MD-11 as 544 mph. I cannot explain the discrepancy.)

*: the Army Corp of Engineers controls the shoreline of Lake Lanier, and a few years ago they declared a moratorium on docks. Before the ban went into effect, there was a rush to build them. So Hil's father owns a plot of land with no buildings except a dock.

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May 19, 2011

Poor Plants

Last year I had great success with a tomato plant growing in an 8" pot. This year I expanded, buying four 12" pots. I ended up planting two blueberry bushes and two tomatoes.

Well, one of the blueberries didn't survive transplantation, then one of the tomatoes died of unknown causes after two weeks of apparent health.

Then today, I discovered that the groundskeeping crew, which mowing the lawn, smashed the pot of my surviving tomato. While it's not dead, I'm not certain it'll survive repotting, as some of its roots were torn when they smashed the pot.

It's been a bad year to be one of my plants. And now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to the Home Despot to get a new pot and two new seedlings.

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May 17, 2011

Math in Action

I found this utterly mesmerizing.

(Found at

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May 12, 2011

Georgia On My Mind

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May 11, 2011

What To Do, What To Do...

Well, my semester is over, I submitted my last paper. Now the wait for grades.

Originally I planned on taking a class over the summer. The professor backed out, though, as he was just awarded a fellowship somewhere else. I'm thus at loose ends, somewhat too late to search for an academic summer job.

I could work retail and earn a little spare change. But I'm thinking instead about going to Massachusetts for a few weeks and doing some archival research at the New Bedford Whaling Museum. The idea is to get a jump on my master's thesis. Er, master's project. I got corrected about that by the graduate adviser– he said to qualify as a academic thesis, you must defend it before a panel.

The scheduling on hitting the archive is still up in the air. Their archivist recommended coming by when she's not on vacation, but she doesn't know when that'll be. Meanwhile, I'll have to move apartments temporarily at a yet-to-be-determined date, as a contractor is coming in to install a new fire detection system.

The only part of my summer that I am sure about is this upcoming weekend, when Hil and I are going to Atlanta to visit a bunch of her relatives. Maybe I'm unaware of some people, but it seems like my family is spread out all over the country, while hers is heavily concentrated in Buffalo and Atlanta. If I'm not mistaken about her family's spread, it has some advantages. Her parents could take their kids to visit all the cousins in only a single trip!

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May 01, 2011

Osama bin Laden

So, it seems the villain of our age is dead. As I type this, at almost 1 AM, there are parties in the streets of Washington DC and New York City.

He lost. He failed to achieve his political aims, and there is no sign that his successors will achieve them either.

But we haven't won. We've permitted the government to suppress freedoms in the name of pointless security theater. But all is not lost. We got over the various internments of the Second World War, and we got over Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus, and we got over the Alien and Sedition Acts. I have hope for the future.

I also have no hope, as nothing lasts forever. But if we can keep it together for a few more centuries, that's good enough.

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Bikes Everywhere

Hil and I like to go biking together. But it is inconvenient to bike between our residences. It works out well, though, because we each own two bicycles. I've got a commuter bike and an unsprung mountain bike. She has a an urban hybrid and a hardtail mountain bike, which is the one I borrow over there. It's got a step-through frame, otherwise known as "ladies' style." Which is funny, as that style is to allow a rider to wear a dress, and I can't think a dress is a good idea when mountain biking.

Yesterday, I remembered with some amusement that the few times I had to borrow one of my sister's bikes in our youth, I was mortified at the idea that someone might see me riding a ladies' bike. Now, I don't give a damn.

The other interesting thing is, as noted, that I'm borrowing a mountain bike. As the front has shock-absorbing suspension, I don't have to steer around potholes. Trust me, there are plenty of potholes to go around in the Buffalo region.

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